The Youth, the Latino, and the Independent

Beware the Ides of March.

So said a fortune teller to Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play, predicting Caesar’s impending doom.

While Hillary Clinton supporters and media pundits may view the results of the March 15, 2016, primaries as predicting doom for Bernie Sanders, events will likely play out quite differently.

Last night Sanders lost Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio by large margins, and lost Illinois by 2% and Missouri by 0.2% (about 1,600 votes). The delegate count now stands at Clinton’s 1,132 to Sanders’ 818. About half the states have yet to vote, and plenty of delegates are up for grabs.

Bernie Sanders fans can take heart: Clinton’s lead is not insurmountable, particularly since the states where Sanders is most likely to win come in the last half of this race — and offer huge delegate counts. One telling fact: most of the 10 largest cities in the U.S. that gave the most money to Sanders per capita thus far are in states about to vote, like Washington State, Oregon, New Mexico, California, and Arizona.

Sanders crushed Hillary by 20 percentage points in two-thirds of his victories: New Hampshire, Minnesota, Colorado, Vermont, Kansas, and Maine. This was not a fluke. He will likely have more big wins if young people, independents, and Latino voters register and cast their ballots.

Southwest and Western states with large Latino populations will likely flock to Sanders. He barely lost Illinois, but surveys the week before saw him with 64% of Latino support in the state, compared to 30% for Clinton. (Nearly half of Latino voters are millennials.) Of the 20 Iowa counties that have the largest Latino population, Sanders won 15 of them. He also may have won the Latino vote in Nevada, far better than expected, and Democracy Now reported after Colorado: “Latino vote helps Bernie Sanders surge to victory in massive Democratic caucus turnout.”

Upcoming states like New Mexico, Washington, Arizona, and California (with its whopping 546 delegates) with big Hispanic populations could cause Clinton’s lead to evaporate.

Now consider independent voters. 43% of Americans are independents, a steadily rising voting bloc.

Sanders is hugely favored by independents, for example winning 71% of the independent vote in Michigan, 73% in New Hampshire. He doubled Clinton’s support from independents in Massachusetts. He even won the majority of independent votes in states he lost: “Sanders captured independent voters by 16 points in both Texas and Virginia, 3 points in Georgia, 13 points in Tennessee, and 17 points in Arkansas.” Of the first 15 states that voted, 30-50% of the people who voted for Sanders were independents, according to The Washington Post, and of those contests it is likely Sanders won New Hampshire, Michigan, and Oklahoma because independent liberals swarmed the polls.

Many of the remaining states have large independent voting blocs. In two states that have more registered independents than registered Republicans or Democrats, Iowa and Massachusetts, Bernie lost by just 0.3% and 2%, respectively, but in Colorado, Maine, and New Hampshire, which also have more independents, Sanders had resounding victories. The remaining states with this registration pattern — Alaska, Idaho, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island — are coming up fast.

Finally, it should be no surprise to anyone that younger voters support Sanders over Clinton. On Super Tuesday,

Even in the states where Clinton won handily, like Texas, Virginia, and Georgia, Sanders still won handily with his core constituencies — voters aged 18 to 29, first-time primary voters, and independents. According to NBC News’ exit polls, Sanders won young voters by a 30-point margin in Texas, 39 points in Virginia, 13 points in Georgia, and even captured the youth vote in Clinton’s home state of Arkansas, where Bill Clinton served as governor, by 24 points.

Among first-time primary voters, Sanders won by, again, 30 points in Texas and 8 points in Virginia.

Voters under 45 certainly propelled Sanders to victory in New Hampshire (83% of 18-29 year olds, 66% of 30-44 year olds), helped him tie in Iowa (84% of 18-29 year olds, 58% of 30-44 year olds), and so on. In Illinois last night, Sanders won an astonishing 70% of Democratic voters under 45.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University pointed to 10 states this year that would have a “disproportionately high electoral impact in 2016.” While Clinton has won 6 of these and Sanders only 2, young voters could still deliver Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to Sanders, fairly significant prizes. Voters under 45 will have an impact in every contest, however, and may make more of an impact on certain states than others. Some key upcoming contests in the Southwest and West have younger populations.

What will be key for Bernie Sanders is not only that likely Latino, independent, or 18-44 year old Americans will vote in their states when the time comes, but also the ability to increase the number of likely voters — to turn unlikely voters into likely ones. Latinos make up only 16% of the U.S. population, many states have more party voters than independents, and younger citizens are still less likely to vote than older folks. Mobilizing those not planning to register and cast a ballot is necessary to strengthen Sanders’ advantages with those groups.

According to a respected pollster whose calculations have proven fairly accurate thus far, Sanders is poised to see a long stretch of victories.

New York Times writer points out Sanders has had enormous success in caucus states:

He’s a strong favorite in the caucuses in Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington and Wyoming. Barack Obama won an average of 72 percent of the vote in these contests in 2008, and so far Mr. Sanders is running an average of four points behind Mr. Obama’s showing in caucus states. Mr. Sanders is also a strong favorite in the Utah primary.

Further, “He could win big in North Dakota, Oregon and Montana, or maybe in a few mostly white working-class states like Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky.” But Wisconsin, Arizona, and New Mexico will be close, while California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and the District of Columbia will be challenges.

Rob Ford, Controversial Toronto Mayor, Dead at 46

Rob Ford, a former Toronto mayor who became famous outside Canada for drunken rants and cocaine use, died Tuesday, March 22, 2016, after a long battle with pleomorphic liposarcoma, a rare cancer. He was 46.

Ford, the son of millionaire Doug Ford, Sr., entered rightwing politics in 2000 and became beloved by some as the “plain-spoken champion of the little guy” and despised by others for his “caustic insults and off-colour comments” in a tenure of “seemingly endless controversy,” to quote the Toronto Star.

For example, in 2008, as a Toronto city councilman, Ford faced criticism for comments about “the Oriental people”:

No stranger to controversial statements, the Etobicoke councillor yesterday stood by his claim that his comments during this week’s council debate were meant as a compliment to Asian people.

“Those Oriental people work like dogs…they sleep beside their machines,” he said. “The Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over…they’re hard, hard workers.”

He said in a later interview that by “taking over” he meant Asians are further advanced in business than a century ago.

David Miller, mayor of Toronto at the time, asked Ford to apologize. Ford demonstrated he had received dozens of emails and phone calls supporting his statements, and said, “I don’t know why I should (apologize),” Ford said. “People aren’t asking me to.”

In 2012, Ford threw a racial slur in the face of a taxi driver and “used ‘mocking language sounds.’” Two years later, he was caught using various racial slurs — while declaring he supported different ethnic groups:

Nobody sticks up for people like I do. Every f*cking k*ke, n*gger…whatever the race. Nobody does. I’m the most racist guy around. I’m the mayor of Toronto.

Ford was later forced to apologize by an ethics commission, yet even the apology was not without controversy — leaders of the Jewish and Ethiopian communities accused him of inviting them to the official apology but switching the time of the event to ensure they missed it.

Elsewhere, Ford was confronted by a black city council candidate, who asked him to apologize for the use of the N-word. “Ford shrugged and said, ‘It’s complicated.’” Ford faced condemnation for the term he chose for community grant initiatives he opposed: “hug-a-thug” programs. (He was notorious for slashing funds for needed social programs.) He also said without his charity youth football program, the black kids involved would be “dead or in jail,” positioning himself as what some might derisively call a “white savior.”

Doug Ford, Rob Ford’s brother and advisor, declared, “No in this city supports the black community more than Rob Ford. No one. Bottom line. Zing. Done. OK? No one.”

Ford often blamed his racist rhetoric on intoxication.

The politician who personally asked Ford to apologize for his racism wrote that Ford supporters (including some African-Canadians) gravitated toward him because “we have no options and no opportunity to get ahead” and backing Ford is an “upraised middle finger directed at a political class that, from their point of view, could not care less about their quiet struggle.”

“(Ford) shows up and helps someone fix their door that’s been broken for three months and they say, ‘Hey, this guy is a great guy,’” one resident said. “His sort of populism appeals to that… ‘I’m just this poor little guy and there are these downtown elites who hold their noses up at us; they don’t come into our communities.’” He went on to say neighbors didn’t notice “the inconsistencies between Ford’s words and his policy positions” (Toronto Star).

Another citizen said, “I have too many friends who are motivated to support him. I think for them he represents someone who is challenging the system. There’s a misconception that he’s one of us.”

Besides racism, there was corruption. A lawsuit over a conflict of interest nearly destroyed Ford’s career in 2010. According to an integrity commission:

Councillor Rob Ford used the City of Toronto logo, his status as a City Councillor, and City of Toronto resources to solicit funds for a private football foundation he created in his name. Donors to the Councillor’s foundation included lobbyists, clients of lobbyists and a corporation which does business with the City of Toronto.

“A judge ordered him ejected from office…but an appeal court rescued him on a technicality” (Toronto Star). Even after this, he continued soliciting funds in this manner.

Ford was also accused of sexism. He once said, “We need more females in politics,” offering to “explain how politics works” over coffee to any woman interested. He once called a female conservative politician a “waste of skin.”

In 2013, politician Sarah Thomson accused Ford of inappropriately touching her.

Ford said in response: “False allegations were made regarding a number of disgusting actions…I can say without hesitation that they are absolutely, completely false.” And, as the accusations arose on International Women’s Day: “What is more surprising is that a woman who has aspired to be a civic leader would cry wolf on a day where we should be celebrating women across the globe.”

He later implied Thomson was crazy, saying, “I don’t know if she’s playing with a full deck” — yet also said some councillors told him “it was a set-up,” seemingly crafting two independent explanations.

Weeks later, Ford was kicked out of a gala event for military personnel (raising funds for Wounded Warriors) because he was intoxicated. He called journalists who broke the story “pathological liars.”

Other Ford scandals were simply bizarre.

Ford was enraged and frightened when a camera crew from a comedy show rushed at him early one morning while Ford was leaving his home for his car (Ford had received death threats earlier). When they blocked his way to the car, Ford called the police — only to leave before the police arrived.

Beyond his DUI conviction (a story he changed several times, from outright denial to half-truths) in 1999, Ford in 2006 went on a drunken rant at a Maple Leafs hockey game that included insults and obscenities directed toward a couple sitting near him. He yelled, “Do you want your little wife to go over to Iran and get raped and shot?” He was kicked out by security, and told the media he was never at the game.

He slandered progressives as “two steps left of Joe Stalin” in 2012.

He blamed bicyclists for their own deaths: “Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks, not for people on bikes. And, you know, my heart bleeds for them when I hear someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.”

His take on HIV/AIDs prevention: “Why are we catering to one group with a disease that’s preventable? It’s very preventable. If you’re not doing needles and you’re not gay, you won’t get AIDS probably. And I don’t know why we’re spending $1.5-million on this.”

He was accused of manhandling a young football player he was coaching.

In mid-2013, Ford was caught on video apparently smoking crack. “I’m f*cking rightwing,” Ford mumbled while high. “Everyone expects me to be rightwing. I’m just supposed to be this great…” He didn’t complete the sentence. He used a slur against homosexuals to describe Canada’s liberal prime minister, and appeared to muttered the phrase “they are just f*cking minorities” at one point.

In an article Tuesday after Ford’s passing, Royson James marveled at “why Rob Ford appealed to so many”:

Gaffes and impolitic indiscretions that would sink mere mortals seemed to conspire to elevate his status…

Rob Ford seemed always to defy the odds. He seemed to live by his own rules. Exploding grenades propelled him into the air, they didn’t shatter his facade. The more he sunk into the morass of personal excess — the alcohol and drugs — the more entrenched, though narrowed, his appeal…

Wherever political scientists study voting phenomenon, they’ll be stretched to explain how a young man from central-north Etobicoke — a simple man trading on the means of his politician-turned-businessman father — could parlay such limited recognizable skills into securing the votes of so many of the most fickle of customers…the crowd at the carnival seemed mesmerized every time…

Ford’s genius — crafted or naturally acquired — is that he connected with the average guy… Citizens so often feel unvalued and invisible; they felt special when Rob Ford came calling. Already cynical about politicians, already certain that the average politician is in it for the money and is probably corrupt, these citizens felt that, for once, a politician was in their corner. And even when Ford’s behaviour became contemptible and evoked apologies from Ford himself, none was needed. They were standing by their guy.

Famous and Feeling the Bern

College tuition and healthcare paid for through taxes on Wall Street, corporations, and the wealthy. A higher minimum wage. A jobs program for the unemployed. Expanding Social Security. Avoiding expensive, deadly wars. Ending the drug war and legalizing marijuana. Getting money out of politics.

Just when you thought Bernie Sanders and his movement couldn’t get more awesome, you start hearing about an incredible array of actors, musicians, inventors, and authors in his corner. Take a look at the famous persons feeling the bern, and what they’ve done to help Bernie on his way to the White House.

 

DANNY DEVITO

This image of Danny DeVito hugging Bernie Sanders backstage and then introducing him to a roaring crowd in St. Louis, Missouri will always have a special place in our hearts. “I love you guys!” DeVito exclaimed to the audience. “I love you because you’re here to see…Bernie!” No person has ever so relished someone’s name. He then declared, “The man speaks the truth,” followed closely by “We need you, Obi-Wan!”

SPIKE LEE

Spike Lee voiced a radio ad for the Southern primaries called “Wake Up,” calling on voters to select Bernie because he’s not a “corporate puppet” and offers “no flipping, no flopping.” “Bernie takes no money from corporations. Nada. Which means he’s not on the take.” Lee also pointed to Bernie’s participation in Dr. King’s March on Washington and his arrest for protesting segregation in Chicago.

MARK RUFFALO

Mark Ruffalo, fierce advocate of environmental protection, spoke after the Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan of Bernie’s new priorities for the country. “What’s happening in Flint is happening in many, many different places. It’s happening in New York, it’s happening in California. Our water is being contaminated. And it’s because we’re not taking care of our resources and our people… For some reason, money is worth more than people… What Bernie Sanders is talking about is a revolution of spirit, a revolution of priorities.”

JOSH HUTCHERSON

Josh Hutcherson spoke at a rally in Iowa of Bernie’s plan for taxpayer-funded college tuition. He described how he was able to pay for his brother’s tuition at Georgia Tech, but “not everybody’s lucky. Not everybody has someone that can help out in that way. And for me, I think that if work as hard as my brother worked to become a full-time student, you shouldn’t be burdened with a mountainous pile of school debt.”

DANNY GLOVER

In South Carolina, Danny Glover lamented over the disproportionate poverty and imprisonment of blacks. “We know that a quarter of this state lives in poverty… [in South Carolina] African Americans represent 30% of the population, but also represent three-fourths of those incarcerated. We know that. That’s the reality. We want to change that! That’s what this movement is about! This is about changing!”

ROSARIO DAWSON

Rosario Dawson slammed the Democratic National Committee’s use of superdelegates, who could very well betray the Democratic voters and appoint Hillary Clinton the nominee even if Bernie wins the most votes. Dawson pointed out that DNC chair “Deborah Wasserman Schultz said the reason superdelegates exist is specifically to push back against grassroots organizing. So we need to now more than ever…spread the message and talk about our future.”

SARAH SILVERMAN

On Real Time with Bill Maher, Sarah Silverman explained her endorsement with characteristic directness and wit. “He’s not for sale, he’s not playing the game. He says what he means… [He’s] so kickass! Listen, he’s been on the right side of history at every turn. Not going along with history, not when it becomes popular, but before it’s popular.” She then compared Hillary Clinton taking money from big banks and corporations to baseball players who take steroids. “Then someone came along who doesn’t take steroids.”

KILLER MIKE

Rapper Killer Mike sat down with Bernie Sanders for a long and personal interview in Mike’s barbershop. “What pulled me to you was your Voting Rights Act interview where you talked about the restoration of the Voting Rights Act,” Mike said. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘Who the f*ck is this crazy white guy?’…you were the only voice of outrage!” Bernie replied, “You know, I love democracy. I love the fact that in this room if somebody disagrees with me, says, ‘Bernie, you’re full of sh*t, I’m gonna vote against you,’ that’s fine, I love it… [But] as a result of the Supreme Court decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, the day after, [politicians] are sitting up thinking, ‘All right, great, how do we deny people the right to vote?’ They are cowards…because they are afraid to contest a free and fair election. They can’t win it.”

AND MORE…

Others supporting Bernie include:

Ben Folds

Susan Sarandon

John C. Reilly

Justin Long

Jeremy Piven

T.I.

George Lopez

David Koechner

Hans Zimmer

Dr. Cornel West

Steve Wozniak

Neil Young

Patch Adams

Others, such as Ryan Gosling, Seth McFarland, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Noam Chomsky have praised but not endorsed Bernie.

Obama Urged to Investigate Arizona Vote

The Arizona primary that took place on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, is facing a firestorm of criticism.

The state steeply cut the number of polling places for this election, due to officials’ predictions of low turnout and high mail-in votes, but also as a means to reduce costs. In 2012, Maricopa County (one of Arizona’s most populous) had 200 voting locations; on Tuesday there were but 60, meaning one location for every 21,000 voters. This led to enormous lines: voters reported waiting over 5 hours to vote, some past midnight.

Some areas dominated by Latinos had a single polling place, others none at all. “In my district, there is only one polling place,’’ state senator Martin Quezada wrote. “In my neighboring district, LD 30, there are no polling places.” Elvia Diaz slammed election officials for not providing voting places for communities based on prior voting patterns in an op-ed for the Arizona Republic:

“We were looking for locations that were larger so we could have more people in them,” [Maricopa County Recorder] Helen Purcell said. “We decided that you could go anyplace which we’ve never done before. So we looked at an area, and factored into that how many early ballots we usually get in that area and how many people normally vote at the polls. We didn’t look at it as legislative districts. We looked at the overall picture of our voters.”

So, it is  no coincidence many poor and predominantly Latino areas didn’t get a polling place. Purcell and her staff figured few of them vote anyway.

Purcell says she “screwed up,” but refuses to resign.

It is unknown how many residents decided not to vote or left a polling place before voting due to the enormous lines and long wait times. Hillary Clinton was declared the winner by the press at about 8:30 p.m. Arizona time, which critics say likely caused more people to abandon their struggle to vote.

There were also voters mistakenly listed as “independent,” “no party,” or “libertarian” — even people registered as Democrats for a very long time — due to software problems. As Arizona is a closed primary, these residents were not allowed to vote. They were given “provisional ballots” instead — yet provisional ballots are not counted if one is listed as an independent, libertarian, or no party affiliation.

Arizona Republic reported:

“In Coconino County, they’re handing them out like candy,” [Maricopa County Elections Director Karen] Osborne said of the provisional ballots.

Yesenia Alteres, 18, waited for more than 20 minutes in a line that wrapped around the Maryvale polling place. Alteres was prepared to cast her first-ever vote in a presidential race, unaware that as a registered independent her vote would not be tallied in the presidential primary.

An organizer broke the news to her when she reached the front of the line.

Alteres said she would have voted for Sanders.

A petition to the Obama Administration quickly popped up, declaring:

Numerous voters who switched from Independent to Democrat could not vote and were turned away or given provisional ballots which in turn were never counted. We the people of the United States of America find this act alarming and would like a complete investigation to uncover the violations that occurred during the Arizona voting on 3/22/2016 and prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.

On Wednesday, the mayor of Phoenix called for the Justice Department to investigate.

Bernie Sanders called the primary a “national disgrace.”

It is unclear how drastically these issues affected the outcome (Clinton ended up with 58% of the vote, Sanders with 40%). As Heavy put it:

So far, most of the complaints are coming from people who wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders. They are alleging that if this wasn’t a technical problem or a glitch, perhaps a demographic was targeted or people on a donation list were targeted. However, it’s also possible that Hillary Clinton voters simply aren’t reporting problems they had since she was the winner in Arizona, therefore they have little motivation to complain about difficulties they encountered.

There are plenty of Clinton opponents calling foul, as it is well-known independent voters favor Sanders by massive margins and also appeals to Latinos.

One writer was enraged that Hillary was declared the winner with less than 1% of the vote reported and with many voters still waiting in line. He also drew attention to an NBC News report that showed 60% of early, mail-in voters were older women likely putting Hillary Clinton ahead, allegedly providing an incentive for the Clinton campaign to create low turnout on election day, keeping Bernie’s supporters — men and youths (as well as independents and Latinos) — away from the polls. NBC News said:

The early vote by women is dominated by older age groups. Voters under 30 account for only 7 percent of Democratic early voters compared to 41 percent for the over 65 crowd. The large number of women, particularly older women, who have already cast Democratic ballots, is a good sign for Hillary Clinton.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition had over 60,000 signatures. It needs 100,000 to receive an official reply from the White House.

Clinton Gets Shredded

April 1, 2016–During a speech at the State University of New York on Friday morning, a hearty gust of wind lifted Hillary Clinton’s blouse about eight inches, revealing a six pack.

“I’ve been on a strict diet and exercise routine since Iowa,” Clinton told NYBC 4 after the speech. “High-intensity interval training. Heavy weight, low rep.”

Clinton is only the latest presidential candidate working to slim down in hopes of nabbing the Powerlifter vote, a key demographic, especially in the upcoming primaries in New England. Jeb Bush and Chris Christie put forth similar efforts, before they hung up their Harbinger Big Grip No Slip Weightlifting Straps and bowed out of the race for the Republican nomination.

Neither had as much success as Clinton. When Jeb Bush showed off his new body at a speech in New Hampshire in February he was forced to meekly ask an unimpressed gathering, “Please clap” — this was widely marked as the beginning of the end for his campaign.

“Hillary Clinton has consistently lagged behind her main Democratic rival in the power clean, deadlift, and leg press,” Bernie Sanders campaign spokesman Dean Waterston said in a press release after the breeze incident at SUNY, which some have already called Washboardgate. “It’s no surprise to us that the secretary would start high-intensity interval training at this stage of the campaign, it’s just disappointing it’s politically motivated. Senator Sanders has been lifting for decades, since his time at the University of Chicago.”

“Let me be perfectly clear,” Bernie Sanders told a reporter at Dalia’s Cafe in Soho, “Secretary Clinton’s Super PAC has received huge sums of money from the Supplemental Industry. The top tenth of 1% is not donating to her expecting nothing in return. We have to put an end to the reckless greed of Big Protein that is wrecking this economy.”

“I am so sick of these lies,” Clinton later snapped at a Louie’s Gym member at a campaign rally in Brooklyn on Friday afternoon. “I have never taken a single supplement to make these kinds of gains.”

Clinton is not the only one facing criticism, however. The Democratic National Committee is under fire from Bernie Sanders supporters concerned about what kind of advantage the supersets will give Clinton over Sanders when the race draws to a close. Clinton also leads Sanders in regular sets.

“She really looks great,” Bill Clinton said when pressed to comment on the incident. “She’s been working hard.” Chuckling, he continued, “Sometimes I spot her.”

Donald Trump, no stranger to controversy in this election, told a crowd of supporters in Wisconsin, “I shouldn’t say it, I feel bad saying it, believe me, but you have to wonder if Bill would have spent more time at home if Hillary had had abs like that a long time ago. I shouldn’t say that, I feel terrible. Terrible.”

Facing a firestorm of criticism, Trump later walked back the comment.

At about the same time, The Madison Times reported Ted Cruz broke his back going for a new wide-stance squat P.R. of 55 pounds.  

Tennessee Poised to Make the Bible its Official State Book

Tennessee’s Republican-led congress approved a bill on Monday, April 4, 2016, that would make the Holy Bible the official state book; it is unclear whether G.O.P. governor Bill Haslam will sign it into law, though he has said before he sees it as disrespectful and perhaps unconstitutional.

The bill’s sponsor, State Senator Steve Southerland, argues the Bible’s historical and cultural contributions to Tennessee makes it worthy of such a designation. The Tennessean writes Southerland made an “emotional plea in favor of the legislation,” even quoting one of his Jewish friends who supports the bill in an attempt to demonstrate people of minority faiths could get behind the idea.

In Tennessee, 3% of adults are of faiths other than Christianity and 14% are atheists, agnostics, or otherwise unaffiliated.

Opponents see the bill as a blatant “endorsement of religion” (Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery), a violation of precedents that separate church and state and establish secular government, including but not limited to the U.S. Constitution.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation called the bill a “supremely inappropriate attempt by zealous legislators to force Christian ideology upon all Tennesseans, regardless of their religious — or nonreligious — preferences” and implied the bill was illegal.

Some religious Republicans opposed the measure because they saw it as degrading the Bible; the senate majority leader even called it “sacrilegious.” The Bible would join other state symbols such as the official reptile (Eastern box turtle) and wild animal (raccoon).

Tennessee would be the first state to make the Bible its official state book. Lawmakers in Mississippi and Louisiana tried in 2015 but failed.

Doctor-Assisted Suicide Nears Approval in Canada

Physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill may soon be the law of the land in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau supports the legislation introduced on Thursday, April 14, 2016. It is expected to be voted into law, as the Liberal Party controls most of the legislature. In February 2015, the Canadian Supreme Court struck down a ban on assisted suicide for people with serious medical conditions, a ban upheld since 1993.

Americans would not be able to take advantage of the policy by heading north. According to The New York Times, “The proposed law limits physician-assisted suicides to Canadians and residents, who are eligible to participate in the national health care system, preventing a surge in medical tourism among the dying from other countries.”

Adult Canadians could get medical drugs from their doctors and end their lives by themselves or with family, or have their doctors help them at the hospital. A doctor would be required to refer people to other doctors if he or she personally objected to assisted suicide. Canadians with mental health issues would not be included in those eligible.

Germany, Japan, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Columbia, and other nations have legalized assisted suicide.

A matter of fierce debate over whether people deserve the right to kill themselves to end their suffering, this is as controversial in the United States as it is in Canada. Assisted suicide is legal in 5 states; one in six Americans can therefore legally end their lives in this manner.

Sawant Urges Sanders to Form New Party

On Friday, April 15, 2016, Kshama Sawant — social justice activist, socialist, and Seattle city councilwoman — called for Bernie Sanders to form a new political party (or join the Green Party) and run as an independent if he does not clinch the Democratic nomination for president. Sawant launched a petition to gather support for the idea, not dissimilar from one created earlier on MoveOn.org.

Sawant wrote:

The stakes are too high to let this moment slip through our fingers… We can’t allow the corporate media, Wall Street PACs, and the Democratic Party establishment to derail this movement before the real presidential election even begins. An independent run by Bernie could open a new era in American politics if linked to building a new party for the 99% and laying the foundation for an ongoing mass political movement that runs hundreds of left candidates for all levels of government, independent of corporate cash.

In an article for Occupy Wall Street, Sawant declared that the “Democratic Party establishment is completely opposed to this political revolution,” in which Sanders is “a lightening rod for the enormous discontent at the billionaire class and its domination over the political system.”

Addressing concerns among many on the Left, including Bernie Sanders himself, that an independent run would draw votes away from Hillary Clinton and hand the Republicans the White House, Sawant suggests Sanders wouldn’t necessarily need to run to win, but rather build a force for future elections:

…there is no reason he could not at least run in the 40+ states where it’s absolutely clear the Democratic or Republican candidate will win, while not putting his name on the 5-10 closely contested “swing states”… The confidence and energy our youthful, working-class political revolution will turn into demoralization and disorganization if the movement is corralled into Clinton’s Wall Street funded campaign…

The Green Party is a third party (remember Ralph Nader?) that will be on the ballot in at least 20 states when the U.S. votes in November. Its platform closely aligns with Bernie Sanders’. Its “Four Pillars” are Peace (ending U.S. wars and its global military presence), Ecology (renewable energy), Social Justice (stronger wages for workers), and Democracy (expanding the voice of the people and getting money out of the political process).

The Three Parties Closest to Breaking the Two-Party System

In a nation with a two-party system as firmly entrenched as in the United States, there exists political motive to inhibit the growth of other parties. Republicans and Democrats alike would naturally shy away from broadening competition for votes and thus competition for power. The fact that third parties have existed for a long time but are still waging war state by state to even get on the November ballot is a testament to the struggle between established power and new challengers.

Ballot access laws ensure getting on the ballot in all 50 states is extremely difficult; if it were easy, if the procedures less complex and stringent, older third parties would today have the same access to voters that the two major parties enjoy (and maybe even access to the debate stage — which only happens if the Commission of Presidential Debates says it’s OK).

There are three minor parties making progress toward total ballot access. Here’s a brief summary of each.

 

THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY: SOCIALLY LIBERAL, FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE 

The Libertarian Party was founded in 1971. In general, Libertarians believe in maximizing personal freedoms (such as the right to drug use or abortion), minimizing government interference in citizen affairs (like ending government surveillance), and terminating U.S. military invasions and bombings in foreign nations. The Libertarian Party is on the ballot in 32 states.

 

THE GREEN PARTY: VERY LIBERAL

The Green Party began in 1984. It’s “Four Pillars” are: Peace and Non-Violence, Ecological Wisdom, Grassroots Democracy, and Social Justice. They emphasize the use of tax wealth to meet human needs like universal healthcare, want to reduce the military budget and keep the U.S. out of wars, and want to end corporate control of the U.S. political process. They are on the ballot in 20 states.

 

THE CONSTITUTION PARTY: VERY CONSERVATIVE

The Constitution Party was recognized in 1996. This party stresses the need to follow the Constitution according to the actual intent of the Founding Fathers. Members oppose abortion rights and gay rights, and support states’ rights, religious liberties, and Second Amendment rights. The Constitution Party will be on the ballot in 18 states.

 

AND MORE

To see who you can vote for in your state, hit up the Sample Ballot Lookup on BallotPedia. There are many to choose from besides the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties, from veterans to socialists.

GOP Bill Would Cut Minimum Wage to $4.25 for Many in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, occupied by the United States since the American war with Spain in 1898, could see a dramatic change to its minimum wage laws.

H.R. 4900, a bill introduced in the U.S. Congress by Republicans on April 12, 2016, to address Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, would grant the governor of Puerto Rico the authority to set a minimum wage of $4.25 an hour for Puerto Rican workers under 25 years old. Employers could offer that wage for an employee’s first 5 years of work, as long as said employee remains younger than 25 (see page 76 of the bill).

The minimum wage for other workers is, like the federal minimum wage for the States, is $7.25 an hour.

This statute would revise the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. In a version enacted just a few months ago, on December 18, 2015, the U.S. determined employers could offer Puerto Rican employees under 20 a $4.25 wage for just the first 90 days of employment (see page 11 of the Act).

Nelson A. Denis, a former New York State Assembly Democrat and the author of War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony, wrote that the congressmen who named H.R. 4900 “PROMESA [PROMISE] for Puerto Rico” had “a perverse sense of humor.” He says the measure would slash the wages of 200,000 Puerto Ricans.

The Guardian reported in July 2015 that Puerto Rico had a 41% poverty rate. The cost of living in the territory is 13% higher than in the United States; supermarket goods are 21% more expensive. Monthly energy costs per resident average $438.21, verses $169.49 in the States.

H.R. 4900 must pass through committee before a vote can be called in the House, but is currently stalled by both Republican and Democratic disagreements and in-fighting within the Republican Party itself.

It’s a Trap! Neither Star Wars Nor Anything Else Hollywood is Coming to Your City

We all remember our first time.

For me, it was “Clint Eastwood to Buy Home in Parkville, Missouri.” Or was it “Walking Dead Season 7 to be Filmed in Springfield, Missouri”? OK, so perhaps we don’t remember our first time. But both of these got me. They were my first exposure to a darkness none of us really understood the Internet could conjure. As someone who lives in Kansas City, Missouri and attended college in Springfield, hearing The Walking Dead being filmed there didn’t really amaze me. Some parts of that town are downright pitiful, fitting neatly into human imaginings of apocalyptic hellscapes, zombie or otherwise. But the Clint Eastwood thing? I thought that was f*cking awesome. There’s this idea among Kansas Citians, see, that there is absolutely nothing in Parkville (I haven’t actually bothered to investigate this), and it kind of seemed sensible that Clint would just want to ride off into the sunset to a place where he could avoid all human contact. He always seems so curmudgeonly.

But apparently, some genius (and absolute monster) figured out that ideas that are f*cking awesome enough can completely abolish critical thinking skills. In my defense, I took a moment to look at the other stories on the webpage to determine if it was a satire site. But lo! The site had stories of events that actually happened. That’s where they get ya. Ben Affleck did sneak Matt Damon onto Jimmy Kimmel’s show. That woman winning $1 million? Actual clip. And goddammit, who can deny that German snacks are quite the mouthful? (In my “not defense,” had I looked harder I would have found a mention of “pure fantasy” under the “About” tab; who would have thought to look there?)

According to Snopes, these hoaxes started with Mackenzie Post and Headline News, and spread to other sites. Sure, Mackenzie Post sounds like the name of a 7th-grader’s mock newspaper in Mr. Dack’s social studies class, but who wouldn’t trust a name like Headline News? Or KSPM 33? Apparently no one. All of us have been painfully caught with our trousers down over one celebrity or another moving to a town happily close enough to stalk. We’ve squawked and squealed about Justin Bieber moving to Sandy, Oregon or Tom Cruise moving to Beaver f*cking Falls, Pennsylvania. We shared on social media how Matthew McConaughey was moving to Mulvane, Kansas, if there is such a place, only to hang our heads in total shame when someone tells us we’re acting the fool (for me and Clint, it was my Dad. Thanks, pops).

And now, buckle your Padawan robes, because apparently Star Wars: Episode VIII is going to be filmed in Topeka, Kansas! [Editor’s Note: Location may vary.]

It seems Ireland was just too scenic a place for Rey’s training under Luke Skywalker to begin, and thus the producers and director settled on a miserable town in the middle of nowhere that reeks of slashed grade school budgets. The article isn’t real. You could say it’s a trap! It’s from WMAC NEWS, which I suspect is either an offshoot of Mackenzie Post or is secretly run by Lee Ann Womack.

Probably the most barbaric part of all this is it’s solely for profit (thanks, capitalism). Someone gives us everything we ever wanted (McConaughey to just assimilate into some small, crappy municipality and disappear forever) and then yanks it away, while hoping we’ll click on an advertisement in between! Don’t be fooled. Don’t line the pockets of these savages. Don’t trust “local news” anymore — looking at you KMBC 9, Kansas City’s News Leader. Give the finger to clickbait, unless of course it’s an article about clickbait, using a clickbait headline (click on that link and you won’t BELIEVE what happens next).

At least now you know. And you’ll probably notice the websites look exactly the same. Apparently there’s a default webpage template called “Total @$$hole.”

Obama Sending More Troops to Iraq and Syria

President Barack Obama announced on April 24, 2016, in a speech in Hannover, Germany, that he will send 250 more Special Forces personnel to Syria to aid in the conflict against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL).

“They’re not going to be leading the fight on the ground,” Obama said, “but they will be essential in providing the training and assisting local forces that continue to drive ISIL back.”

This will bring the total of U.S. forces in Syria to about 300. He further called on NATO allies to step up the fight to destroy ISIS.

In Syria, ISIS is warring to overthrow longtime dictator Bashar al-Assad, which has created a complex situation, as al-Assad’s overthrow is also an aim of the United States. The U.S. supports extremist groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the Muslim Brotherhood in their battle against al-Assad, as revealed by leaked Pentagon reports, but does not support ISIS.

The Syrian Civil War, between the dictator and many rebel groups, has killed 250,000 people and displaced 11 million people. The war has seen many tragic developments, such as bitter conflict in the U.S. over whether to allow immigration of refugees, ISIS genocide against Shia Muslims and to a lesser extent Yazidis and Christians, the starving of Syrian towns by both ISIS and U.S.-backed fighters, and the ISIS terror attack in Paris — revenge for France’s involvement in the war.

In Iraq, nearly 4,100 troops remain, mostly involved in training and defense in the Iraqi government’s battle against ISIS. In the last few years, the number has been increasing a few hundred at a time. A week ago, on Monday, April 18, the Pentagon announced an increase in Iraq of over 200 U.S. troops.

Sweden Investigating Possible ISIS Terror Plot

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, that Sweden’s national security service, SAPO, is investigating possible terror plots after Iraqi authorities warned SAPO of seven or eight ISIS fighters heading to Stockholm to carry out violence in the style of the November 2015 attacks in Paris.

A Swedish security police spokesman told The Sun“Right now we’re gathering information and intelligence and coordinating with our national and international partners.” SAPO has dispatched agents to Iraq to learn more. Security at airports and train stations has not yet increased, but police are operating at a “heightened state of readiness.”

While this type of information cannot be “dismissed,” SAPO said, it explained these types of concerns arise “quite often” and have yet to come to fruition. While the identity of the alleged plotters is unknown, is estimated that 300 Swedes have ventured to the Middle East to join ISIS since 2013.

CTV News reports that the

Swedish media is also speculating that the celebrations Saturday for Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf’s 70th birthday could be a possible target. Such an event gathers the royal family, government officials and European royal visitors.

While Sweden remains officially neutral, it participated in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the no-fly zone operations of the Libyan Civil War, and joined the coalition against ISIS in January 2015, sending over 100 troops to Iraq to help train Iraqi forces. The International Business Times reported in April 2015,

…the move has been controversial in Sweden, with one terrorism expert suggesting that it could raise the threat level at home.

“It could motivate someone to carry out violent acts to protest,” said Thomas Hegghammer, a terror expert at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment… “There will be more attacks. We can already see a marked increase.”

The terror attack in Paris was revenge for France’s role in the anti-ISIS coalition, according to both ISIS and French intelligence officials, just as the 9/11 attacks in New York were revenge for U.S. military intervention in Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere, according to both Al Qaeda and U.S. military officials. Could Sweden be next?

GOP Candidates Get Sexual

Could any of us have envisioned the depths of absolute madness into which the Republican Party would descend during this 2016 primary season? It’s as someone tweeted, “I feel like this is the last season of America and the writers are just going nuts.” Nothing exemplifies this as well as the sexual things — some intentional, some witless accidents that only sound filthy to our filthy minds — that have come out of candidates’ mouths. Here are 5 times the Republican candidates said something disturbingly sexual and deeply unsettling.

 

TED CRUZ AND RAT SEX

Last month, during a speech in Wisconsin, Ted Cruz was talking about the dirty tricks of Donald Trump advisor Roger Stone, who Cruz said was “a man for whom a term was coined for copulating with a rodent.” But Cruz wouldn’t stop there. He wanted to try analogy. “Well let me be clear,” he continued, “Donald Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him.”

A presidential candidate feeling the need to joke about how he has no desire to make love with rival candidates has to be some kind of record low in American politics, but that can hardly be overshadowed by the fact Cruz used the word “but.” He “may be a rat, but…”? So if it was a rat but not Trump, you might think about it? Ted, you sly dog!

 

WHEN RUBIO DREW ATTENTION TO TRUMP’S DANGLE…

Marco Rubio, desperate to stop Donald Trump’s onslaught in the early contests, started fighting dirty. Channeling his inner frat boy, Rubio called Trump illiterate, mocked his spray tan, and joked that maybe Trump peed his pants. Then Rubio, once hailed as the more presidential-looking and presidential-acting of the Republican field, hit The Donald where it hurt. He said Trump had small hands, “and you know what they say about guys with small hands!” As his surprised audience laughed, he joked, “You can’t trust them!”

Shocking to nearly all political analysts, Rubio’s attack on Trump’s penis did not save his doomed campaign.

 

…AND TRUMP THOUGHT, “CHRIST, WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?”

Donald Trump, who has crushed his opposition from the very beginning because a massive portion of conservative voters love his bigotry and authoritarianism, and overall insanity, seized on the opportunity Rubio offered. It was as if Rubio thought that gasoline would douse the fiery sh*tstorm that is Trump’s candidacy. The Donald assured the nation during a nationally-televised Republican debate that all was well with his Johnson, using his trademarked nearly-incoherent psychobabble:

Look at those hands, are they small hands?… He referred to my hands — ‘if they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.

When CNN runs an article headlined, “Donald Trump Defends Size of His Penis,” you know it’s all over. R.I.P. America, 1776-2016.

 

GOTTA BE CAREFUL WHEN SAYING “ON YOUR KNEES”

Ted Cruz made clear what he thought of presidential candidates that aren’t as pious as he: “Any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief of this nation,” forcing more liberal opinion writers to decide if they should focus their articles on the smug implication of the superiority and necessity of religious leaders or just how dirty such a statement sounds to anyone who isn’t nine.

The choice wasn’t difficult. Our bad.

P.S. Sorry for all the pics of Ted Cruz.

 

JEB’S HOT THREESOME

After Jeb’s miserable performance in the first couple primaries and caucuses, he was forced to pull out (LOL). “I’ve had an incredible life [uhhh, is it ending?], and for me, public service has been the highlight of that life,” Bush said. “But no matter what the future holds…tonight I’m going to sleep with the best friend I have and the love of my life.”

The love of his life is clearly Columba, his wife, whom he kissed after saying this. The word is still out on who Jeb’s best friend is, whether it’s a woman or man (Devil’s Threesome, anyone?), why Columba seemed so calm in the face of Jeb’s public admission of their freaky sex life, or how the evening went overall.

Missouri State Sued for Dismissing Counseling Student Who Vowed Not to Counsel Gay Couples

In a story making national headlines, from Think Progress to The Daily Beast, a former counseling student is suing Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, for violating his freedom of religion and expression. Andrew Cash was dismissed from Missouri State’s counseling program after he refused to abide by the terms set by the university for his remedial work, which addressed his determination not to counsel gay couples.

Cash had interned at the Springfield Marriage and Family Institute, a Christian organization, and earned 51 hours of experience when in 2011 Missouri State discovered that SMFI, while offering counseling to individual homosexual patients, refused marriage counseling for gay couples. During this revelation, it was further made known that Cash agreed with this stance and intended to follow it in his professional practice.

Refusing to counsel gay couples is a direct violation of the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics, which Missouri State is required to abide by to keep its accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Missouri State required Cash to go through a remedial process to address his stance (according to The Daily Beast, including classes he already took and a self-assessment), and removed SMFI as an approved internship site, saying Cash’s 51 hours there would not apply to his degree. He appealed this latter measure for two years, but by late 2014 the Missouri State counseling department had had enough and, believing Cash unfit for the profession, removed him from the program.

Cash’s lawsuit says his “experience at MSU has been devastating, crushing, and tormenting,” a “living nightmare,” and that he was “targeted and punished for expressing his Christian worldview.” He has “lost countless hours of sleep, and lives with gut-wrenching thoughts and fears about his future and ability to enter the counseling profession, and experiences of emotional grief, anxiety and panic, each day…”

Similar lawsuits at Eastern Michigan University and Augusta State University failed. Courts ruled universities have the right to ensure students abide by the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics.

The Springfield News-Leader writes,

It’s not the first time religious freedom has been cited in a lawsuit against MSU. Emily Brooker sued the university in 2006, accusing the school and a faculty member of violating her First Amendment rights when she refused to sign a letter supporting same-sex adoption. Brooker was a student in the School of Social Work.

Brooker alleged in her lawsuit that faculty members interrogated her for over two hours and asked her questions such as: “Do you think gays and lesbians are sinners?” and “Do you think I am a sinner?” Brooker made national headlines before reaching a settlement with the university.

Almost Every Detroit Public School Shut Down as Teachers Protest

On Monday, May 2, 2016, 94 of the Detroit Public School District’s 97 schools were closed, as massive numbers of teachers called in sick to protest a Saturday announcement that they wouldn’t get any paychecks after June 30. On that date, the emergency district manager told union leaders, about $50 million in emergency state aid will be gone and the deeply indebted district will be broke. Summer school and special education programs will likewise be cancelled if no more aid is received.

The unions encouraged calling in sick (a so-called “sick-out”) because public school teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan. This is one of several sick-outs the unions called since last year, which will likely cause “lawmakers to consider tightening the definition of what constitutes a strike.”

The Detroit Public School District has been poorly funded for a long time for several reasons, from the standard American practice of funding school districts through property taxes (ensuring poor neighborhoods have poor schools) to the low test scores that poor students consistently achieve meaning few federal funds (under programs like No Child Left Behind) to the city’s bankruptcy of three years ago. The Michigan Legislature is considering a $720 million restructuring plan to rescue the district, and today’s protest will likely push the lawmakers along.

The district is overwhelmingly black and poor. With just under 50,000 students, about 84% are black, 12% Hispanic. 80% of students are on the Free/Reduced Lunch Program. Facilities are crumbling, classrooms crowded and ill-equipped. “I want to be able to go to school and not have to worry about being bitten by mice, being knocked out by the gases, being cold in the rooms,” a Detroit student, Wisdom Morales, said earlier this year.

The state as a whole is suffering from both a lack of revenue and the poor decisions of leaders, which devastated public services like schools and water treatment.

Like other states, especially those controlled by Republican administrations, Michigan has accrued large deficits while shifting the tax burden from large corporations and the wealthy onto low- and middle-income earners. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, for example, “dug himself into a $454.4 million deficit,” giving “away billions of dollars in tax credits to major corporations…all while squeezing more from the average citizen – some $900 million more, while corporations paid $1.7 billion less in 2014.”

Socialismo: The Marxist Victories in Spain

In the 1930s, labor leaders and workers in Spain formed communes where a general assembly elected members of a governing committee. Most of these members performed the same tasks as everyone else, but met at the end of the day to discuss, organize, and plan. Both the committee and regular workers could call for a general assembly meeting. Within the communes there was an emphasis on educating oneself by studying the arts and sciences while off-duty. Workers were paid only for working; there were no handouts. There were thousands of communes and hundreds of thousands of members.[1]

1931 saw the end of Spain’s monarchy, and in 1936 the Popular Front ousted conservatives from power. The common people celebrated by freeing prisoners, refusing to pay rent to landlords, and seizing land from owners and working it for themselves. When General Francisco Franco attempted to seize power in a coup, Madrid, Barcelona, and most other major cities erupted into violence as the people stole weapons from armories and attacked Franco’s forces. It was a storm of such fury that in many places, like Aragon, Castile, the Levant, Catalonia, and Andalusia, the authorities found that

…they simply not longer existed. The State, the police, the army, the administration, all seemed to have lost their raison d’être. The Civil Guard had been driven off or liquidated and the victorious workers were maintaining order… committees distributed foodstuffs from barricades transformed into canteens, and then opened communal restaurants. Local administration was organized by neighborhood committees, and war committees saw to the departure of the workers’ militia to the front.[2]  

George Orwell joined the anarchists. He wrote of Barcelona:

It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with the red and black flag of the Anarchists… Every shop and cafe had been collectivized… Waiters and shop-walkers looked you in the face and treated you as an equal.[3]

Rudolf Rocker wrote, “Everyone who visited Barcelona…was surprised at the freedom of public life and the absence of any arrangements for suppressing the free expression of opinion.”[4]

Orwell wrote of Aragon:

I had dropped more or less by chance into the only community of any size in Western Europe where political consciousness and disbelief in capitalism were more normal than their opposites. Up here in Aragon one was among tens of thousands of people, mainly though not entirely of working-class origin, all living at the same level and mingling on terms of equality. In theory it was perfect equality, and even in practice it was not far from it. There is a sense in which it would be true to say that one was experiencing a foretaste of Socialism, by which I mean that the prevailing mental atmosphere was that of Socialism. Many of the normal motives of civilized life – snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc. – had ceased to exist. The ordinary class-division of society had disappeared to an extent that is almost unthinkable in the money-tainted air of England; there was no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no one owned anyone else as his master. Of course such a state of affairs could not last. It was simply a temporary and local phase in an enormous game that is being played over the surface of the earth. But it lasted long enough to have its effect upon anyone who experienced it. However much one cursed at the time, one realized afterwards that one had been in contact with something strange and valuable. One had been in a community where hope was more normal than apathy or cynicism, where the word ‘comrade’ stood for comradeship and not, as in most countries, for humbug. One had breathed the air of equality. I am well aware that it is now the fashion to deny that Socialism has anything to do with equality. In every country in the world a huge tribe of party-hacks and sleek little professors are busy ‘proving’ that Socialism means no more than planned state-capitalism with the grab-motive left intact. But fortunately there also exists a vision of Socialism quite different from this. The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the ‘mystique’ of Socialism, is the idea of equality; to the vast majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing at all.[5]

Membrilla was “perhaps the poorest village of Spain, but…the most just.” It had an elected council that established committees to oversee village life. Food, clothing, and tools were passed out equally, and money was abolished.[6]

Despite many challenges, like government restriction of credit, the socialist communities performed well economically; they even had social projects for the elderly, children, and disabled.[7] Unfortunately, the Spanish anarchists were bitterly divided over whether to take part in national politics, and those that did were forced into an alliance with political parties (and even Stalin in Russia) to survive against Franco.[8] In the end, Franco was victorious, crushed the popular movement and the communes, and reigned as dictator for 36 years. The anarchist committees and collectivized workplaces were dismantled “with the same energy as in the U.S.S.R.”[9] Picasso, who once said, “I am a Communist and my painting is Communist painting,”[10] depicted the ruin Franco brought to Spain in his drawing The Dream and Lie of Franco.

Picasso wrote in Why I Joined the Communist Party (1944), “I have become a Communist because our party strives more than any other to know and to build a better world, to make men clearer thinkers, more free and more happy.”

Socialism in Spain and the early Soviet Union did not fail because it is in the nature of socialism to fail. It was crushed by external forces. People desire to own their workplaces communally and run them democratically, and can do so successfully indefinitely, but this is unlikely to succeed long-term unless the workers also own the government. A State controlled by the few, by political parties, the upper class, capitalists, authoritarian socialists, or fascists, will pose a severe threat to anticapitalist enterprises.

Marx saw cooperatives as a

…victory of the political economy of labor over the political economy of property. We speak of the co-operative movement, especially the co-operative factories raised by the unassisted efforts of a few bold “hands.” The value of these great social experiments cannot be overrated. By deed instead of by argument, they have shown that production on a large scale, and in accord with the behests of modern science, may be carried on without the existence of a class of masters employing a class of hands; that to bear fruit, the means of labor need not be monopolized as a means of dominion over, and of extortion against, the laboring man himself; and that, like slave labor, like serf labor, hired labor is but a transitory and inferior form, destined to disappear before associated labor plying its toil with a willing hand, a ready mind, and a joyous heart.

But he knew that capitalist political power would stand in the way.

To save the industrious masses, co-operative labor ought to be developed to national dimensions, and, consequently, to be fostered by national means. Yet the lords of the land and the lords of capital will always use their political privileges for the defense and perpetuation of their economic monopolies. So far from promoting, they will continue to lay every possible impediment in the way of the emancipation of labor…. To conquer political power has, therefore, become the great duty of the working classes.[11]

Today, socialism has reemerged in Spain.

Take the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, one of Spain’s most profitable companies. Mondragon has 85,000 workers in a network of over one hundred cooperatives. No, it is not a perfect democratic workplace. It owns traditional companies in low-wage countries, where workers are not owners nor voters. Only 40% of its workers are worker-owners, democracy is nevertheless stronger than in capitalist firms.[12] Yet the ratio between the highest salary and the lowest is 6.5 to 1. In rough economic times, worker-owners decide democratically how much their pay should be reduced or how many fewer hours they should work.[13] Capitalist dictators are not around to fire people en masse. Further, Mondragon has the ability to transfer workers or wealth from successful cooperatives to ones that are struggling. Mondragon was founded in the 1950s, but not one of its companies went out of business or bankrupt until the board of directors voted to allow one to do so in 2013.

Spain also boasts a “little communist village,” Marinaleda, population 2,700. Since the late 1970s, Marinaleda, located in one of Spain’s poorest regions, transformed itself. It had over 60% unemployment, and many went without food for days. Largely thanks to the efforts of longtime mayor Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo—who as mayor organized occupations of military-owned land, the takeover of a palace, hunger strikes, a march across Spain to urge other mayors not to pay city debts, and the raiding of supermarkets for food like rice and beans to help the starving—Marinaleda is often called a utopia. Unemployment doesn’t exist, as anyone can work for the farming cooperative, which divides up profits to all workers, but reinvests surpluses to expand employment. Residents work six and a half hours a day for double Spain’s minimum wage. Crops like wheat are avoided: “wheat could be harvested with a machine, overseen by a few laborers; in Marinaleda, crops like artichokes and tomatoes were chosen precisely because they needed lots of labour. Why, the logic runs, should “efficiency” be the most important value in society, to the detriment of human life?”[14] The town has a handful of privately-owned enterprises that exist alongside the cooperative. While there is no unemployment here, the region as a whole—Andalusia—has mass unemployment, 36% in 2013 (55% for those 24 and younger). Other towns, like Somonte, have taken note and are copying Marinaleda’s farming cooperative.[15] After Spain’s housing crash, residents of Marinaleda could get a new home built for free, only paying about $19 a month afterwards for the rest of their lives—the home cannot be sold.[16]

 

 

Notes

[1] Guerin, 122, 134

[2] Guerin, 127

[3] Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

[4] Chomsky, Anarchism, 55

[5] Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

[6] Chomsky, Anarchism, 100

[7] Chomsky, Anarchism, 64-65

[8] Guerin, 128-129

[9] Chomsky, Anarchism, 54

[10] http://books.google.com/books?id=OJTKZeXaUvkC&pg=PA140&lpg=PA140&dq=%22a+communist+and+my+painting%22&source=bl&ots=SBRP93ZjFy&sig=jF1BvBvqrZ3iYfGq3sIDHywWhZY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=c5NpU4rNC-mfyQH_vIHgBw&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%22a%20communist%20and%20my%20painting%22&f=false

[11] See Guerin

[12] See Wright, 240-246.

[13] Imagine, 78.

[14] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/20/marinaleda-spanish-communist-village-utopia

[15] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/20/marinaleda-spanish-communist-village-utopia

[16] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-22701384

How Capitalism Causes Economic Crises

In “How Capitalism Exploits Workers,” we saw how capitalism distributes wealth away from the many who create it and into the hands of the few. What went unstated was how this causes economic failure.

To keep the economic system running effectively, wages must rise with profits and productivity. Marx stressed, “The ultimate reason for all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses.”[1] Economist Nouriel Roubini writes:

At some point, capitalism can destroy itself. You cannot keep on shifting income from labor to capital without having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand…the firm, to survive and thrive, can push labor costs more and more down, but labor costs are someone else’s income and consumption. That’s why it’s a self-destructive process.[2]

In other words, if corporations (the producers) get wealthier and the common people (the consumers) do not, the natural result is too much production capacity and not enough consumption. The people cannot afford the goods of booming industry, goods created by their own labor! The accumulation of profit without a proportionate rise in wages leads to economic contraction, and with it greater poverty for the masses and lower profits for corporations.

The booms and busts of the economy, times of prosperity (for some at least) followed by times of widespread unemployment, falling wages, foreclosure, homelessness, and hunger, are built into the system. “The history of capitalism is a history of periodic lurches into crisis, into the insanity of unemployed workers going hungry outside empty factories, while stocks of ‘unwanted’ goods rot.”[3] Conservative economists argue crises are caused by government meddling in the free market, such as the swelling of the money supply. While this can indeed have harmful effects (the Federal Reserve printing out billions devalues the dollar and leads to runaway inflation), it is not the cause of economic crises. Neither is government control of bank interest rates, or other forms of State regulation of the free market. The free market puts itself into crisis. It is important to remember there are certain ideologies that are very useful to the wealthy and powerful, and are peddled by them in every sector of society. In an In These Times article, David Harvey writes:

The steady decline in labor’s share of national income since the 1970s derived from the declining political and economic power of labor as capital mobilized technologies, unemployment, off-shoring and anti-labor politics (such as those of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan) to crush all opposition. As Alan Budd, an economic advisor to Margaret Thatcher confessed in an unguarded moment, anti-inflation policies of the 1980s turned out to be “a very good way to raise unemployment, and raising unemployment was an extremely desirable way of reducing the strength of the working classes… What was engineered there in Marxist terms was a crisis of capitalism which recreated a reserve army of labour and has allowed capitalists to make high profits ever since”…

Many thought that lack of effective demand underpinned the Great Depression of the 1930s. This inspired Keynesian expansionary policies after World War II and resulted in some reductions in inequalities of incomes (though not so much of wealth) in the midst of strong demand-led growth. But this solution rested on the relative empowerment of labor and the construction of the “social state”… By the end of the 1960s it became clear to many capitalists that they needed to do something about the excessive power of labor. Hence the demotion of Keynes from the pantheon of respectable economists, the switch to the supply side thinking of Milton Friedman, the crusade to stabilize if not reduce taxation, to deconstruct the social state and to discipline the forces of labor.[4]

Despite the reasons the upper class provides, it is the under-consumption caused by low wages and the competition of capitalists that cause depressions. The competitive spending between firms sets the stage for a terrible collapse. As Einstein wrote, “The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions.”[5]

In years when borrowing rates are low, raw materials cheap, worker wages pitiful, new technology available, capitalists see a chance to increase their profits, expand their businesses and market share, and destroy competitors. They stampede into investment all at once, building new factories, buying new land, technologies, and raw materials, and hiring workers. This is the boom time. Firms benefit from the spending of all other firms. Each firm can sell more to some and buy more from others, and profits rise. Many unskilled workers find employment. Skilled workers often see a rise in wages. Consumers are spending more money. Production takes off, and the economy prospers.[6]

But all good things must come to an end. Massive competitive demand eventually creates shortages in and thus raises the prices of raw materials, technology, land, available loans, skilled employees, and so on, which starts eroding profits. These increased costs raise the prices of consumer goods, and consumers buy less. During the boom time, after all, most of the new wealth and prosperity went to the capitalists at the top of society. The consumer base benefited a little, but not enough to prevent what’s about to occur. Quickly, the capitalists stampede out of investment. They saw the writing on the wall. Production is scaled back. Workers are fired. Rising unemployment then cripples consumption further – winding down production, cutting pay or hours, and letting employees go all deepen the crisis, rather than pull the economy out of it. Things spiral downward. Depression sets in.[7]

The result is a huge waste of both our productive capacity and human talent. During the recession beginning in 2008, about 30% of our industrial capacity stood idle.[8] Excess goods typically go to waste because no profit can be made from them – people cannot afford them. Workers desperately need work, and much work needs to be done to better society, but they will not find it from capitalists. Corporations sit on their money, refusing to invest. National wealth stays with the capitalists, as the pockets of the majority empty to stay alive. More and more people fall into debt, and are forced to compete with millions of others for dismal jobs, forcing down wages further. The larger employers will survive the crises intact, until eventually low interest rates, low worker wages, and cheaper raw materials begin the process again.[9]

A system where the production of wealth is controlled by the profit-driven few causes economic instability. Since industrial capitalism arose 200 years ago, the advanced capitalist nations of the world have been devastated by crises in each decade. So the U.S. saw depressions in the 1810s, 1820s, and 1830s just as it did in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. Obviously, the increasing interconnectivity between national economies meant countries brought each other into crises like a collapsing house of cards. Globalization ensured global meltdowns.

Marx and Engels are famous for criticizing the crises of capitalism. They wrote in The Communist Manifesto that each economic bust put capitalism on trial:

In these crises a great part not only of existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that in all earlier epochs would have seemed an absurdity—the epidemic of overproduction. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.[10]

“And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises?” he asks. “On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.”[11] Scaling back production, massive layoffs, and pay cuts deepen the crisis, rather than helping pull an economy out of it.

This critique is not at all a relic of Marx’s time. In his 2013 article “What Wal-Mart Could Learn from Henry Ford,” former Secretary of Labor and political economist Robert Reich writes of “the basic economic bargain that lies at the heart of a modern economy”:

Workers are also consumers. Their earnings are continuously recycled to buy the goods and services that they and other workers produce. But if their earnings are inadequate and this basic bargain is broken, an economy produces more than its people are capable of buying.[12]

Reich points out that some executives and owners understood this, like Henry Ford. Socialist Michael Harrington noted the same in his 1989 book Socialism: Past and Future:

Mass production, Ford understood, could not exist unless there was mass consumption. The enormous increase in output made possible by the new technology that he had perfected—the assembly line—simply could not be absorbed by an economy of low-paid workers…

So Ford decided before World War I to pay the incredible wage of five dollars a day and to help buyers finance the purchase of his cars in order to deal with the new challenges of both production and consumption. More than that, Ford tried to persuade his fellow industrialists that, in their own self-interest, they should increase the pay—and the buying power—of their “hands” just as he had done. He succeeded in winning over converts, usually when there was a crisis—the Rockefellers joined the movement when their hired guns outraged the nation by killing strikers’ wives and children in Colorado—and mainly in the ranks of big business…labor historian David Brody called these changes in attitude in the United States “welfare capitalism”…

Ford and welfare capitalism made some prominent recruits—Herbert Hoover, who was something of an avant-garde Republican in the early 1920s, was one of them—but he failed to convince the capitalist class as a whole. Big business was mildly and sporadically receptive, but by and large decency toward the workers, even if it helped stop union organization, was seen as an extra cost, putting firms at a competitive disadvantage. Thus when the crash came in 1929, after a decade that had witnessed an extraordinary rationalization of production, a tremendous increase in capacity and productivity ended, just as Ford had feared, with the masses utterly unable to “buy back” the work of their own hands.[13]

Ford wrote in his book Today and Tomorrow (1926) that

The owner, the employees, and the buying public are all one and the same, and unless an industry can so manage itself as to keep wages high and prices low it destroys itself, for otherwise it limits the number of its customers. One’s own employees ought to be one’s own best customers… We increased the buying power of our own people, and they increased the buying power of other people, and so on and on. It is this thought of enlarging buying power by paying high wages and selling at low prices that is behind the prosperity of this country.

Economist Paul Krugman writes in “A Permanent Slump?” (2013) that economists are increasingly accepting what Marx predicted in the late 1800s, that our economy is now “an economy whose normal condition is one of inadequate demand—of at least mild depression—and which only gets anywhere close to full employment when it is being buoyed by bubbles…and unstable borrowing.”[14] Empirical studies support this; for example, a 2014 report from the International Monetary Fund itself confirmed lower inequality is strongly correlated with faster and more stable economic growth.[15] In 2016, the IMF repeated this warning: “Increased inequality…hurts the level and sustainability of growth.”[16] The Congressional Research Service looked at 65 years of data and concluded that tax cuts for the rich have no impact on economic growth. Simply giving more money to the rich does not fuel economic growth, as some claim (it will actually do the opposite if the wealth gap grows too large). Economic growth is fueled by the masses, by consumers. Only enriching the poor can bring about economic stability.

 

Notes

[1] Karl Marx, Capital Volume 3

[2] Economist Nouriel Roubini (2011), from Lee Sustar’s article Why Marx Was Right

[3] Harman, Economics of the Madhouse

[4] http://inthesetimes.com/article/16722/taking_on_capital_without_marx

[5] Einstein, Why Socialism

[6] Harman, How Marxism Works, 45

[7] Harman, How Marxism Works, 45

[8] Richard Wolff, Occupy the Economy

[9] A People’s History of the World and How Marxism Works, Harman; The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels; 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, Chang; Power Systems, Chomsky; Recovery in U.S. is Lifting Profits, but Not Adding Jobs, Schwartz, NY Times 3/3/2013

[10] Marx, Manifesto, 13

[11] Marx, Manifesto, 13

[12] http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/syndicated-columnists/article332088/What-Walmart-could-learn-from-Henry-Ford.html

[13] Michael Harrington, Socialism: Past and Future

[14] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/18/opinion/krugman-a-permanent-slump.html?_r=0

[15] http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/sdn/2014/sdn1402.pdf

[16] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/may/27/austerity-policies-do-more-harm-than-good-imf-study-concludes

Lies and Oil: A Brief History of the U.S. in Iraq

In “A History of Violence: Facing U.S. Wars of Aggression,” we saw a broad overview of how the American government uses military force to protect its economic interests and global power. Now we will take a closer look at the U.S. wars in Iraq. Sources include those listed at the beginning of the aforementioned article, particularly Hegemony or Survival, Imperial Ambitions, The Untold History of the United States, and A People’s History of the United States.

The story of the United States and Iraq begins with oil.

In 1963, British intelligence and the CIA supported the Ba’ath Party’s overthrow of Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Karim Qassem, who threatened British and American oil interests. Qassem sought to take ownership of Iraqi oil from private foreign companies like BP, Exxon, and Mobil so the production and distribution of oil, and its profits, would serve Iraq. The Ba’ath coup was successful, and Qassem was publicly executed.

Iraq’s new dictator, Ba’ath party member Saddam Hussein, became a close U.S. ally (the CIA had recruited him to murder Qassem[1]). Though Hussein was not a perfect ally (he ended up nationalizing the Iraqi oil industry in the early 1970s, seizing 75% of Iraq’s oil production[2]), the U.S. had a vested interest in protecting its access to Iraq’s oil, and thus it supported the 1980 Iraqi invasion of Iran (a country that in 1953 also had its uncooperative government overthrown and a brutal dictator installed by the CIA, but had since continued to displease American officials).

Reagan removed Iraq from the list of terrorist states so he could arm Saddam with military equipment—throughout the 1980s, the United States supplied Iraq with war machines and $40 billion worth of loans. The government sold Iraq biological and chemical weaponry, and the CIA instructed in their use. Iraqi nuclear engineers were invited to the U.S. for instruction in weapons manufacturing.[3] The Reagan Administration blocked U.N. resolutions condemning Saddam’s atrocities and use of illegal weapons. The U.S. military even assisted the Iraqis between 1987 and 1988. After 8 years, one million Iranians and Iraqis were dead. After the war was over, a war during which Saddam massacred Kurdish Iraqis and other ethnic minorities with these devices, the U.S. continued to supply him with anthrax, cyanide, and other chemicals. Again, the interests of oil corporations encouraged passivity toward violence and death on a massive scale.

But in 1990, Saddam went too far, greatly displeasing American leaders and quickly devolving into an enemy. Iraq launched an invasion of Kuwait to seize control of the Kuwait oil industry. Tensions escalated between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and the Bush Administration feared Saddam would also attempt to seize nearby Saudi oil fields—which were enriching U.S. oil companies. President George H.W. Bush amassed over half a million troops in Saudi Arabia and drove Saddam from Kuwait in 1991, utterly destroying his military. Tens of thousands of Iraqis died. With Iraq defeated and defenseless, the U.S. maintained control of Iraqi airspace, and enforced harsh UN sanctions that severely restricted imports to force Saddam to disarm. This economic warfare caused widespread poverty and a huge death toll. Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, when asked her opinion in 1996 on the nearly 600,000 Iraqi children under the age of 5 who died as a result of U.S. sanctions, said, “We think the price is worth it.” An “Oil-for-Food” program introduced by the Clinton Administration sought to alleviate the starvation. Food would be shipped to Iraq if Saddam would sell large amounts of oil on the world market. Foreign nations would get oil, and the profits from the sales would fund food and medicine for Iraqis, war reparations to Kuwait, and U.S.-U.N. operations in Iraq.

Iraq eventually dismantled its biological and chemical weapons program, a process overseen by UN inspectors.

On September 11, 2001, members of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group killed thousands of American civilians in New York and D.C. by hijacking planes and crashing them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The summer before, the CIA and FBI had warned a dismissive President Bush that Al-Qaeda was planning to attack the U.S. by hijacking planes.[4] The U.S. invaded Afghanistan to destroy Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the brutal Afghani rulers who refused to hand over bin Laden. At the same time, the Bush Administration launched a propaganda campaign attempting to link Saddam with the attack and convince Americans he was a well-armed threat to our existence, despite Iraq’s poverty, extreme military weakness, and documented disarmament. Richard A. Clarke, the National Security Council counterterrorism coordinator at the time, said, “When the 9-11 attacks occurred, Bush cabinet members immediately discussed how that tragedy could be used to justify an invasion [of Iraq]” and “Bush himself asked me to try to pin the blame for 9-11 on Iraq.”[5] The administration was so eager to blame Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld had ordered strike plans against Iraq on September 11, while the ruins of the twin towers still smoldered.[6]

A false case was made for war against Iraq. It reminds one of what one of Hitler’s officials, Hermann Goering, said a generation before: “The people don’t want war…the leaders of the country determine the policy…the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounced the pacifists for lack of patriotism.”

Real evidence that Iraq participated in an attack against the U.S. or was planning to do so never materialized. The “evidence” the government presented—that one of the 9/11 hijackers met with an Iraqi intelligence official, that Iraq was buying uranium from Niger, kept mobile biological weapons labs, and helped train Al-Qaeda—all turned out to be forgeries and lies.[7] Secretary of State Collin Powell presented all this to the United Nations (Bush told him, “Maybe they’ll believe you”), but later called it a low point in his career.[8] Michael Morell, a CIA official who served as Bush’s intelligence briefer, admitted in 2015 that the Bush Administration took the information he provided and distorted it.[9] Later, Bush administration officials like Cheney and Rumsfeld ordered the use of torture in Iraq in an attempt to turn their lie into a truth, to establish a link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda operations.[10] As Noam Chomsky documents, an army psychiatrist named Major Charles Burney explained that “a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish this link…there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”[11] The press reported that “the Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein… [Cheney and Rumsfeld] demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration” and a senior intelligence official said, “There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took…”[12]

In truth, the Bush Administration saw an easy opportunity to eliminate a rogue dictator and seize control over the second-largest oil reserves in the world.[13] There was no need to invade Saudi Arabia, the home nation of nearly all the 9/11 terrorists—Saudi Arabia was a close ally and a crucial oil partner. Around the globe, there were other countries suffering under worse dictators, but spreading freedom and democracy was not the real goal (once Iraq was occupied, Washington actually tried to prevent elections, because the Iraqi electorate, strongly opposed to the U.S. invasion and U.S. policies, threatened control over the country).[14] Iraq, one of the richest prizes in the world, was both vulnerable and, with a little dishonesty, could be made into an enemy with weapons of mass destruction that supported the 9/11 attacks. Seizing Iraq would open the door to further interventions and tighter control of the region. “Pentagon officials foresaw a five-year campaign with a total of seven targeted countries, beginning with Iraq, followed by Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and the biggest prize of all, Iran.”[15] In the National Security Strategy of 2002, the Bush administration declared it had the right to launch pre-emptive wars against any nation that it perceived to be a future threat, and that no nation should be allowed to challenge America’s global dominance.[16]

The invasion launched in March 2003, and over the next decade millions of innocent people were displaced, hundreds of thousands of civilians killed (in mid-2015, it was estimated that 1.3 million people had died because of the War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan[17]). Thousands of U.S. soldiers died, trillions of taxpayer dollars were wasted, and the country fell into sectarian violence and civil war.

The Bush Administration announced that American companies would rebuild the Iraqi oil industries, and Halliburton, Baker Hughes, and other U.S. drillers raked in hundreds of billions in profits.[18] Bush even had to issue a “signing statement” to the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act that declared he wouldn’t obey parts of the bill that forbade spending taxpayer money to, in Bush’s words, “establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq” or “to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.”[19]

 

 

Notes

[1] http://www.alternet.org/world/35-countries-where-us-has-supported-fascists-druglords-and-terrorists

[2] https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/185/40719.html

[3] Chomsky, Who Rules the World?, 164-165

[4] Stone, Concise, 277

[5] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-a-clarke/iraq-war-anniversary_b_2904285.html

[6] Stone, Concise, 282

[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-a-clarke/iraq-war-anniversary_b_2904285.html

[8] Stone, Concise, 289

[9] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/05/michael-morell-bush-cheney-iraq-war

[10] Chomsky, Hopes and Prospects, 259

[11] Chomsky, Who Rules the World?, 31

[12] Chomsky, Who Rules the World?, 31

[13] Hegemony or Survival, Chomsky; Imperial Ambitions, Chomsky

[14] Chomsky, Hopes and Prospects, 236

[15] Stone, Concise, 290

[16] Foner, Giver Me Liberty, 1045

[17] http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/03/26/body-count-report-reveals-least-13-million-lives-lost-us-led-war-terror

[18] US Companies Get Slice of Iraq’s Oil Pie, Kramer, New York Times.

[19] http://archive.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/01/30/bush_asserts_authority_to_bypass_defense_act/

Tow Truck Driver: God Said Not to Help Disabled Woman Due to Bernie Bumper Sticker

Conservative Christian Ken Shupe, who runs Shupe Max Towing in Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina, left a woman with disabilities who had just been in a car accident stranded on the side of a highway. Upon noticing Cassy McWade’s Bernie Sanders bumper sticker on the back of her vehicle, God allegedly told Shupe not to help McWade.

“Something came over me, I think the Lord came to me, and He just said get in the truck and leave,” Shupe explained. “And when I got in my truck, you know, I was so proud, because I felt like I finally drew a line in the sand and stood up for what I believed.”

Shupe said Bernie Sanders supporters had given him grief in the past about paying their towing bills. “I’ve had some horrible experiences in the last six months with towing cars for this mindset individuals, in that I don’t get paid. They want to argue about a $50 tow bill, and it turns into just a drama and a fuss. And I said, you know, I’m not going to associate with them, and I’m not going to do any business with them.”

Shupe is a Donald Trump supporter.

McWade said, “He goes around back and comes back and says ‘I can’t tow you.’ My first instinct was there must be something wrong with the car. And he says, ‘No, you’re a Bernie supporter.’ And I was like wait, really? And he says, ‘Yes ma’am,’ and just walks away.”

She added, “I personally don’t believe that you…have to agree on anything just to be kind to one another. I was like, what did I do to you?”

McWade has psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and early-stage Crohns Disease. She says her handicap placard was on her rearview mirror and that Shupe had been told on the phone that she was disabled.

Shupe claimed he did not know McWade had disabilities, but noted: “Had she been disabled, would I have towed her car? No… I would have pulled forward and sat there with her to make sure she was OK until another wrecker service showed up to get her home safely, but I still would not have towed her car. I stand by my decision, and I would do it again today if the opportunity presented itself.”

A writer for a popular atheist website wrote: “Just like the Good Samaritan in the Bible.”

Maine Democrats to Vote on Eliminating Superdelegates

On Wednesday, May 4, 2016, Maine Public Broadcasting reported that when Democrats in Maine gather in Portland on Friday and Saturday for the state convention, they will not only elect delegates to represent Maine at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia but will further vote on a change to the state’s superdelegate system.

Superdelegates are Democratic politicians who can vote for any candidate they wish during the Democratic primaries and caucuses — they do not have to vote for the candidate that gets the majority of votes from the people. Maine has 5 superdelegates. Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton 64% to 35% in Maine, but Bernie Sanders only got 1 superdelegate. This has been extremely controversial across the country, as superdelegate totals help a candidate clinch the party nomination for president.

The amendment to fix this in Maine would require superdelegates be awarded to each candidate based on how the public voted.

“We have a system of government where you have one person, one vote, by and large,” said state representative Diane Russell, a Bernie Sanders supporter who is leading the effort. “The primary system is not when that happens. And I think that we need to start moving toward a system that’s more fair, that’s more democratic and more reflective of the popular vote.”

Russell claims the measure has widespread support and is confident it will pass.

The superdelegate change would be put in place for 2020, but the amendment also includes a non-binding suggestion that superdelegates from the 2016 contest also be redistributed, awarding Bernie Sanders superdelegate support equal to his victory in the state. DNC rules, however, may inhibit this.

Despite Clinton Lead, Polls Still Show Sanders Would Do Best Against Trump

On Tuesday, May 10, 2016, an NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll showed in a potential matchup between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, Sanders would win 53% to 40%. A Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump contest would result in a Clinton victory by a 5-point margin, 49% to 44%. The margin of error for the poll was plus or minus 1.3%.

These results are consistent will prior surveys.

While reporting on this poll, Common Dreams noted:

The latest Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday shows Clinton beating Trump by just one point—43 to 42 percent—in both Florida and Pennsylvania. In Ohio, the real estate mogul holds a four-point lead over Clinton, with 43 to 39 percent.

Echoing the NBC News findings, Sanders bests Trump in all three of those states’ hypothetical match-ups. The Vermont senator leads by two percentage points in both Florida and Ohio (44-42 percent and 43-41 percent, respectively) while beating Trump 47 to 41 percent in Pennsylvania.

The Quinnipiac survey notes that “since 1960 no candidate has won the presidential race without taking at least two of these three states.”

Bernie Sanders faces a steep climb to overtake Hillary Clinton in the delegate count, which currently stands at Clinton 1,705 and Sanders 1,415.

West Virginia votes tonight, and Sanders is expected to win, but the state only carries 37 delegates — divided up according to vote totals. Winning Kentucky, Oregon, and Puerto Rico could help Sanders a bit, as they have between 60-75 delegates, but the big prizes remaining are New Jersey (142 delegates) and California (546 delegates). Sanders needs to win by large margins to overcome his delegate deficit.

Trump and Hillary, confident Sanders cannot make a comeback, have focused attention on attacking each other and gathering voters left over from the nomination season. Trump has taken a turn to the left in an attempt to reach liberals who dislike Clinton (even talking about raising the minimum wage and taxes on the wealthy), while Clinton has taken a turn to the right to appeal to conservatives who dislike Trump. Both strategies come with risk, as Trump may alienate conservative voters who suspect he is more liberal than he pretends and Clinton may only confirm to Bernie Sanders supporters and other leftists that she is, as she recently claimed, “a moderate and center” politician whose record leans unacceptably to the right.

It remains to be seen if these shifts in rhetoric will help, hurt, or not effect Sanders’ upset efforts.

Atheists Dub Ken Ham’s Ark Attraction “Genocide and Incest Park”

A group of atheists, the Tri-State Freethinkers, are calling Ken Ham’s “Ark Encounter” amusement park in Williamstown, Kentucky, the “Genocide and Incest Park.” The atheists hail from Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.

The park features a massive ark (currently under construction) that the creators say is accurate according to measurement descriptions in the Christian bible. The company responsible is Answers in Genesis, helmed by Ken Ham.

The Freethinkers are attempting to purchase billboard space for an image of humans drowning outside the Ark, below the words, “Genocide and Incest Park: Celebrating 2,000 Years of Myths.” In the bible, the Judeo-Christian God causes a flood that wipes out all of sinful humanity and the world’s other lifeforms, minus Noah and his family, who build an ark large enough to save themselves and pairs of land-dwelling creatures (according to the Ark Encounter website, Noah cared for 7,000 animals). When the flood is over, Noah’s family repopulates the earth, presumably through in-family sex.

To Christians, this was part of God’s plan and therefore tolerable, similar to other divine actions in the bible non-Christians find horrific. The atheist group believes all this to be pure myth, but are having a difficult time finding billboard owners receptive to their rebranding of the theme park.

Lamar, a national billboard name, rejected the advertisement, the local office head calling it “not appropriate” and “inflammatory.” Two years ago, Lamar advertised for the Ark Encounter, with one billboard reading: “To all of our intolerant liberal friends: Thank God you can’t sink this ship.”

Another billboard company rejected the atheists’ ad as well.

Beyond their criticism of genocide and incest inherent in the bible story and the theme park, the Freethinkers further condemned the $18 million in state tax credits granted to the project, calling it a violation of church-state separation, and the park policy of only hiring born-again Christians, pointing out this violates equal opportunity in employment laws.

Regarding the billboards, Ken Ham declared of the atheists, “They don’t want people to be exposed to the truth of God’s Word.”

Texas GOP Decides on Independence Vote

The Republican state convention in Texas, taking place the second week of May 2016, will have more on its plate than selecting delegates to represent Texas voters at the national convention later this summer. The G.O.P. will also vote on a resolution that would put the issue of Texas secession before the people in a state-wide vote.

This will be the first time in state history that the possibility of a state-wide vote will be decided. The secessionist movement has long been led by the Texas Nationalist Movement, which states on its website that

The reasons for Texas independence are clear and simple. The people of Texas believe that Texans are best governed by Texans. We are no longer willing to be subjected to policies that we don’t want by people that we don’t elect.

They call for “an end to the failed Federal policy of unrestricted spending and limitless debt” and “a secure border and a sane immigration policy,” among other things. The TNM website has a petition for independence that some 259,000 people have signed (the Texas population is nearly 27 million) and some 22 local GOP chapters will be going to the state convention supporting independence (there are 270 chapters).

Texas was its own nation from 1836 to 1845, rebelling against Mexico in part to protect the right to own black slaves.

In 2009, a poll showed one-third of Texans believed Texas had the right to seceded, but 75% said they would vote against it. The Supreme Court ruled after the Civil War that states could not secede.

The measure is not expected to pass at the state convention.

“Racist McShootface” Ruining George Zimmerman’s Gun Auction

George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch coordinator who shot and killed unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012, is having a difficult time auctioning off the gun he used that night. After Zimmerman started the bid at $5,000, Internet trolls like “Racist McShootface” upped the bid to some $60 million. Other trolls named themselves “Tamir Rice” and “Donald Trump” and likewise raised the price.

Zimmerman’s auction announcement sparked a firestorm of controversy. Martin was a young black male temporarily living in the Sanford, Florida, neighborhood Zimmerman helped watch. Zimmerman, suspicious of Martin, followed him, and during a confrontation shot and killed the teenager. Zimmerman claimed Martin attacked him and that he only used his gun in self-defense. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder in 2013.

Critics were quick to declare the auction insensitive and an ugly way of profiting off a tragedy.

Shawn Leigh Alexander called it

…another link in the long chain of America’s historical obsession with selling and owning memorabilia connected with the murder of African Americans.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries spectators used to hoard pieces of rope, body parts, embers and charred remains of lynching victims.  During the twentieth century pictures of the horrific murders were sold on the streets and some individuals would send the images as postcards to friends and loved ones proudly proclaiming participation, spectatorship or just some fiendish connection with the event… The selling of a gun used to kill an unarmed African American as a trophy, or “an opportunity to own a piece of American history” is unacceptable.  As a nation we should demand more.

Zimmerman, on the online auction site, wrote:

I am honored and humbled to announce the sale of an American Firearm Icon.

The firearm for sale is the firearm that was used to defend my life and end the brutal attack from Trayvon Martin on 2/26/2012… Many have expressed interest in owning and displaying the firearm including The Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. This is a piece of American History. It has been featured in several publications and in current University text books. Offers to purchase the Firearm have been received; however, the offers were to use the gun in a fashion I did not feel comfortable with. The firearm is fully functional as the attempts by the Department of Justice on behalf of B. Hussein Obama to render the firearm inoperable were thwarted by my phenomenal Defense Attorney…

…I am proud to announce that a portion of the proceeds will be used to: fight BLM violence against Law Enforcement officers, ensure the demise of Angela Correy’s persecution career and Hillary Clinton’s anti-firearm rhetoric. Now is your opportunity to own a piece of American History.

The Smithsonian promptly said, “The Smithsonian has never expressed an interest in collecting this firearm and has no intention of collecting or displaying this firearm.”

Zimmerman has also been condemned by many for posting a photo of Martin’s body on social media, and engaging in further domestic violence and revenge porn.

The first online auction site Zimmerman used deleted the sale post, saying, “We want no part in the listing on our web site.”

The current auction site is deleting Racist McShootface and other troll names, but that apparently doesn’t undo the bids. The current bid is still over $65 million.

Officer Charged in Freddie Gray’s Death Found Not Guilty on All Charges

Edward Nero, one of six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, was found not guilty of all charges Monday morning, May 23, 2016.

Nero, 30, was charged with second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct after Freddie Gray was chased and detained by police on April 12, 2015 and found to be in possession of an illegal switchblade, then put in a police van in handcuffs without being secured in a seat belt, which resulted in spinal cord injuries that put Gray in a coma. He died a week later.

Prosecutors argued Nero helped arrest Gray without probable cause (Gray allegedly saw the police and began running, unprovoked; Nero and others gave chase, then discovered the switchblade) and that his negligence contributed to Gray’s death. Nero’s attorneys argued Nero and the other officers followed proper procedures.

Gray’s death sparked riots and looting in Baltimore. Like Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, it also renewed fierce debate over how African Americans, particularly young black men, are treated by the police — white and black officers alike (three of the officers charged are white, three are black). Research shows blacks are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, or killed by police than whites exhibiting identical behaviors.

Nero is the second officer brought to trial for Gray’s death. The trial of William Porter resulted in a hung jury.

Burt Kwouk, Cato in the “Pink Panther” Films, Dies

Burt Kwouk, the actor best known for his role in the classic Pink Panther films, died on Tuesday at age 85.

Kwouk first played Cato Fong in the 1964 Pink Panther movie A Shot in the Dark. Cato was manservant to Peter Seller’s imbecilic Inspector Clouseau, who instructed Cato to attack him whenever possible — to help the inspector keep his reflexes sharp. Cato was a martial arts master, and his surprise assaults on Clouseau were usually the most hilarious parts of the movies.

Kwouk went on to play Cato in many other films, such as Revenge of the Pink Panther and The Return of the Pink Panther (which also starred Christopher Plummer). The actor further had roles in the James Bond films You Only Live Twice and Goldfinger, the Dr. Who television series, and in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun.

Kwouk was born in Cheshire, England in 1930, but grew up in Shanghai, China. He began his acting career in 1957. His first major film role was in the 1958 classic Inn of the Sixth Happiness, opposite Ingrid Bergman. His last role was in 2010.

He was awarded the OBE, the Officer of the Order of the British Empire, by the Queen of England in 2011 for his work in drama. Prince Charles told Kwouk he was a fan. “He told me that when he gets depressed, he puts on a Pink Panther film and that makes him feel better,” said Kwouk years ago.

Kwouk’s agent says the actor “passed peacefully.”

Preschool-Level Book on Evolution Expected to Help Millions of Adults

Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution, a picture book meant to simplify the complex biological processes of evolution by natural selection for preschool children, may also help American adults finally figure out that no, humans did not evolve from apes.

In what began as a self-published book fueled by a Kickstarter campaign, author Jonathon Tweet and illustrator Karen Lewis’ work received so much attention it was picked up by MacMillan for a second edition.

While making evolution understandable for 3, 4, and 5 year olds may sound like mission impossible, perhaps it shouldn’t. Evolution is a simple phenomenon: over time, species change. In a small timespan, changes are subtle yet noticeable; in a massive timespan of millions of years, changes are shockingly dramatic — descendants look and behave nothing like their ancestors. Changes occur when genes mutate during an imperfect reproduction process, and are passed on if the mutation helps an individual creature escape predators, find food or shelter, or attract a mate (natural selection).

Grandmother Fish focuses on how all life on Earth is related, creating a family tree (the study of DNA, by the way, proved once and for all that Charles Darwin and countless other scientists were right. By mapping the genetic code of Earth’s lifeforms, scientists determined — and continue to determine daily — that all life on earth shares DNA, just like within human families). It also emphasizes the long stretch of time needed for the dramatic changes of species.

At the back of Grandmother Fish are science notes to help parents explain evolutionary concepts further. Tweet wrote on his website, during the early stages of the book, why that was important to him and how he went about doing it:

The story of Grandmother Fish is simplified for preschoolers, so the science notes for parents in the back have to be rigorous. Fortunately, I’m getting help from the National Center for Science Education. These people are serious about teaching evolution…

…I spent extra time trying to get the paragraph below just right. This is the paragraph in the back that helps parents talk to their children about the “grab” motion that Grandmother Ape was good at. Talking about “feet” and “hands” gets tricky when you’re talking about primates, humans in particular. Our ancestors’ limbs have been specialized first for swimming, then crawling, and then climbing. Now our hind limbs are specialized for walking while our forelimbs are specialized for grabbing. It might sound minor, but I want to help children understand how special human feet are. Here’s the paragraph…

  • Our early primate ancestors’ paws evolved into four “hands” that helped them climb and live in trees. In humans, our rear “hands” have evolved into stable feet specialized for walking and running on the ground. They are a new kind of foot, unlike the feet of any other animal.

The work has been praised by the likes of philosopher Daniel Dennett and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker.

Hopefully it will capture the imagination of children and spark an interest in evolutionary science, clarify certain concepts for adults who understand that evolution isn’t fantasy, or, for adults who don’t understand that fact, provide a straightforward introduction to a discovery with 150 years of scientific research supporting its validity.

While the scientific community is nearly unanimous in support for evolution as fact, some 42% of Americans do not believe in evolution.

10,000 Protest at McDonald’s Headquarters in Chicago

The Fight for $15 movement has arrived at McDonald’s doorstep.

On Thursday, May 26, 2016, some 10,000 fast food, home care, and child care workers marched to McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Young and old, men and women, and people of all colors protested McDonald’s low wages, demanding $15 an hour and the right to unionize without corporate retaliation.

The protest, funded by SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, comes right before McDonald’s annual shareholders meeting. Corporate employees were told to work from home Wednesday and Thursday.

On Wednesday night, over 100  protesters camped out near the headquarters. Protesters came from all over the nation, such as Atlanta and Kansas City.

McDonald’s said, in response to the protests, that it “takes seriously our role in helping strengthen communities” and gives work to “hundreds of thousands of people, providing many with their first job.” Fight for $15 proponents are angry that 88% of minimum wage earners are over 20, 52% have to rely on welfare because they make so little, and CEO to average worker pay is 644 to 1, one of the highest of any corporation in the country.

Generally, corporations and conservatives insist raising the minimum wage causes unemployment and higher prices, while workers and liberals point to economic research that contradicts this.

“We are just trying to survive,” one protester said. “We are all living in poverty regardless of what area we live in and McDonald’s just made $1 billion in profit the first three months of this year.”

The Fight for $15 has already raised the minimum wage in Seattle, California, and New York.

GOP Congressmen Ditch Meeting When Politician Reads Bible

On Thursday, May 26, 2016, during a meeting of Republican congressmen, Representative Rick Allen of Georgia began reading a bible verse on homosexuality to express his opposition to a bill’s amendment that would turn Barack Obama’s executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT Americans into law.

In response, several moderate Republican lawmakers got up and left the meeting.

“It was f*cking ridiculous,” one of the congressmen said.

“A good number of members were furious,” reported another.

“A lot of members were clearly uncomfortable and upset,” a G.O.P. aide said.

There are no bible verses on the topic that speak of it favorably; it is called an “abomination,” a sin against God, and a reason to put gays and lesbians to death. Allen read Romans 1:18-32:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

The incident drew attention to the old debate over what role, if any, religious views should play in molding national policy in a country where not everyone follows the same religion — or even a religion.

The amendment was put on the bill by Democrats. Despite the walk-out, Republicans opposing the amendment voted against the bill (some Democrats voted against it over another amendment related to immigration), and the bill failed to pass.